The Washington Post is reporting that congressional leaders have announced that they reached an agreement on compromise legislation to extend payroll-tax cuts and benefits for the long-term unemployed, avoiding a bruising political battle.
Rep. David Camp, R-Mich., and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the two top negotiators, strode from a conference room minutes after midnight Thursday to say that only technical issues and the drafting of legislative language remained. The bill would assure a continued tax cut for 160 million workers and jobless benefits for several million others, delivering top election-year priorities for President Barack Obama.
“It’s a very good deal for the country,” said Baucus, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.
There were disconcerting hints that last-minute problems might still crop up. Neither Baucus nor Camp would predict whether Congress would approve the legislation by Friday, the original goal. And aides did not distribute summaries of the bill to reporters, which is usually routine when major accords are reached.
Even so, Baucus and Camp — and a handful of other lawmakers who helped craft the package — expressed confidence that their work on the roughly $150 billion measure was virtually complete.
“We’re moving forward,” said Camp, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee.
The temporary payroll tax cut and extra unemployment coverage initially ran into GOP resistance, some of which lingers.
But Republicans have largely concluded that it would be politically damaging to oppose the package, particularly in this presidential and congressional election year. That contrasted with December, when House Republicans refused to back a bipartisan Senate bill providing a two-month extension of the tax cuts and jobless benefits while bargainers completed a yearlong deal — only to retreat under barrages of criticism from Republicans and conservatives around the country.
Kudos to President Obama for showing congressional leaders how to negotiate. Clearly, GOP lawmakers learned from the last round of negotiations that their obstructionist tactics hurt the country, not the president. We hope that Congress can get more work done in this manner.
Read more at the Washington Post.